New York, September 8, 2008–U.S. filmmaker Andrew Berends continues to be interrogated by security forces in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, while authorities have told translator Samuel George to report to security in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, local journalists told CPJ. Today marks the ninth day security forces have conducted day-long interrogations of Berends and George on accusations of espionage.
Nigeria’s State Security Services have not provided any indication as to when Berends or George will be released. They continue to hold Berends’ personal belongings, including his passport, he told colleagues in an e-mail.
“It is unacceptable to continue to hold Andrew Berends in Nigeria against his will and interrogate him every day,” CPJ’s Africa program coordinator Tom Rhodes said. “Nigeria’s democratic credentials deteriorate each day that these journalists are detained. We call on the authorities to return Berends’ passport and to release Berends and Samuel George immediately.”
Military personnel arrested Berends and George and then handed them over to the security services on August 31 in Port Harcourt, local journalists told CPJ. The authorities accused Berends of espionage and detained him for 36 hours after his arrest, then ordered him to report for day-long interrogations every day since. He was provisionally released into the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja over the weekend. George remained in custody throughout the week but was also temporarily released over the weekend.
Berends legally entered Nigeria in April to work on a documentary called “Delta Boys,” sponsored by the New York-based Tribeca Film Institute, about the Niger Delta region’s oil conflict.
U.S. senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent letters to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week urging her to ensure the two are released. Berends resides in New York. Christiane Amanpour, a CPJ board member and CNN’s chief international correspondent, also called for the journalist’s and translator’s release.
Filmmakers working on the documentary “Sweet Crude” were detained in April and held on unsubstantiated charges.